Wynonna Judd shares Bono’s best advice and why she feels ‘very sister-mommy’ toward Billie Eilish

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It’s the day after Wynonna Judd hopped on stage at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium to sing with Grateful Dead legend Bobby Weir and his Wolf Bros band and she’s still giddy.

“I got up there and immediately said ‘It’s about to get country up in here,’ and the crowd went crazy,” she tells USA TODAY. “I’m learning so much about showing up even when I feel either really unattractive or self-conscious. I just had to push through and it was such a celebration.”

The band partnered with Judd and her husband, Cactus Moser, on The Judds' classic “Why Not Me?” as well as the Grateful Dead’s “Ramble on Rose,” a song Judd and Weir collaborated on for a new version in 2020.

Wynonna Judd's storied career includes 19 No. 1 singles as a solo artist and with The Judds.
Wynonna Judd's storied career includes 19 No. 1 singles as a solo artist and with The Judds.

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It’s an intriguing friendship between Judd and the man she calls Robert. “It’s a respect thing where I come from. I cannot look at him and call him Bobby.

“I look up to him because he’s an elder yet still in a rock band. He’s 74 and I’m (57) and when we got together last night, the audience literally sang every word. I’m learning about letting go of expectation and learning to have fun.”

Judd is entering what she calls the “fourth stage” of her career after a mega-run with mom Naomi in The Judds in the ‘80s; the hit solo period in the ‘90s she dubbed “WynonnaAlona”; and, since 2016, her collaboration with her band, the Big Noise, who will accompany her on tour this spring.

Her fourth stage includes a project coming next month that she can't yet discuss and new single "The Other Side." Her next live outing kicks off April 7 in Arkansas with dates throughout May and June, including a headliner slot May 21 at the Pure Imagination Festival in Prescott, Arizona.

Wynonna Judd will be back on the road in April for a tour that includes stops in Virginia, Texas and the Pure Imagination Festival in Arizona on May 21, 2022.
Wynonna Judd will be back on the road in April for a tour that includes stops in Virginia, Texas and the Pure Imagination Festival in Arizona on May 21, 2022.

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In a nearly hourlong phone chat from her farm outside Nashville, Judd, a funny and natural conversationalist, also touched on her legacy with her mother – including their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame last year – and the advice Bono once shared.

Question: It’s no secret that women struggle to be heard as loudly as men on country radio, but what do you think about things now compared to when you were killing it on the charts in the '90s?

Wynonna Judd: I’ll be honest. I live on a farm with 40 animals, and my life is so much about chores and work, I don’t have time to reflect a ton on that stuff. I don’t even watch the news unless it’s something I really need to study because I have to let things go. I remember my meemaw saying, “Honey, you feel everything. And if you’re not careful, the thing that gives you life can also kill you.” So I have to stay above the noise.

Q: What did it mean to you for The Judds to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame?

Judd: I have to be funny – that’s how I survived in my family. I looked at (my mom) and said, “This is the part when they give you the lifetime achievement before they bury you.” I do love a party, but part of me goes back to, "Oh my God, what am I going to wear?" I go into trauma because I spent eight years trying to match her prissy-butt dresses (laughs). But I love the idea of being able to celebrate my mom and look at her like, “Mom, we went from welfare to millionaire.”

Q: What can you tell us about "The Other Side"?

Judd: People will find their own meaning in the words, But singing it next to Katie (Crutchfield of Waxahatchee), the young girl, and me, the middle-aged girl, it’s like, I got you babe, we’re going to be good."

Q: You covered Billie Eilish's "Everything I Wanted" on your "Love Notes" YouTube series. Why one of her songs?

Judd: I had a heart for her because of her age and I saw her family surround her and I thought, ‘God bless her.’ I felt a very sister-mommy thing because I’m just that way. She sent me flowers and a note and I thought, it’s important to connect with people we don’t know. The fact that she reached out means a lot.

Q: What will the set list look like for this tour, especially since it’s the 30th anniversary of your solo debut album ("Wynonna")?

Judd: It’s about the hits. I’m celebrating those hits because it’s important for people to hear them. I know this sounds like name-dropping, but I asked Bono once for advice (about performing) and he said, “Give them what they want, not what you want.” So this is a tour for the fans and for me to let them live their moments through music. The fans are my family of choice.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wynonna Judd talks Billie Eilish cover, Bob Weir, Bono's best advice